Russia for first time overtakes Turkmenistan in gas exports to China

By bne IntelliNews April 25, 2024

Russia in February for the first time overtook Turkmenistan on a monthly basis to become the largest pipeline supplier of natural gas to China, according to General Administration of Customs of China data.

Gazprom exported 2.5bn cubic metres (bcm) of natural gas to China, while Turkmenistan exported around 2.4 bcm.

The data also showed that in 1Q24, China imported Turkmen gas worth $2.4bn. No value was provided for the imported Russian gas.

Also listed were the largest non-pipeline exporters of the “blue fuel” to China in February.

They were:

  • Australia – 6.3mn tonnes for $3.6bn
  • Qatar – 5.2mn tonnes for $3.1bn
  • Malaysia – 2.3mn tonnes for $1.15bn.

Turkmenistan holds the fourth-largest proven gas reserves in the world after Russia, Iran and Qatar.

In August last year, Turkmenistan issuedrebuke to Russia after Russian officials suggested that more countries could join its “gas union” with Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The Turkmen foreign ministry warned Moscow against trying to expand its influence over the Central Asia-China (CAC) gas pipeline.

Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan all deliver gas to China via the CAC, but the vast majority comes from Turkmenistan. And Turkmenistan is reluctant to share CAC capacity with Russia as it tries to progress its own long-delayed plans to expand exports to China. Uzbekistan’s deliveries of gas to China have, meanwhile, become diminished and patchy as the country is struggling with energy shortages on the domestic market.

The Turkmen state’s Turkmengaz is the operator of the 15-year-old major gas development project Galkynysh in Turkmenistan but China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) is seen as the dominant investor. CNPC has provided extensive drilling and technical assistance to Turkmengaz at Galkynysh and is the offtaker of produced gas. The gas is exported from Galkynysh to China, the only major customer for Turkmen gas, using the CAC pipeline, three-strand infrastructure that can carry an annual 55bcm of gas.

Turkmenistan hopes to this year see big progress in constructing a fourth CAC strand, running cross Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. The fourth strand would add capacity of around 25-30 bcm/year. The lack of a pricing agreement between Ashgabat and Beijing on potential expanded gas supplies is widely seen as holding up work on establishing the fourth strand.

Galkynysh is thought to harbour in-place geological reserves of more than 27 trillion cubic metres of gas. The project is presently in its first development phase. Tenders are said to be ongoing for the second phase.

Turkmengaz has projected that Galkynysh could eventually boast annual production of 200 bcm per annum of gas.

Turkmenistan says it is looking to diversify its gas export routes, with Iraq, Europe, India and Afghanistan all seen as potential markets if the requisite gas field development and export infrastructure is achieved. However, progress in establishing any diversification has been painfully slow in the past couple of decades.

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